After lobbyists step in, a health workers’ COVID transparency bill is gutted. How it changed
Taken from northjersey.com
By Dustin Racioppi, Trenton Bureau
February 11, 2021
Over nine months and two waves of COVID-19, health care advocates rallied, lobbied and testified to get New Jersey’s political leaders to pass a bill requiring public transparency when hospital staff contracted, or died of, the coronavirus.
They got the bill last week, but hardly the transparency.
Hospital lobbyists met with the bill’s primary sponsor and legislative aides several times last year pushing for changes to the bill that would have required daily reporting on the Department of Health’s website of COVID’s impact on health care workers, according to Election Law Enforcement Commission records.
Those state records provide little detail about the discussions lobbyists for the New Jersey Hospital Association and Virtua Health had with the bill’s primary sponsor, Assemblyman William Spearman, and legislative aides.
But the results are clear.
The daily reporting requirement was stripped from the bill.
So was the requirement to report workers admitted for treatment of COVID-19.
So were the requirements for health care facilities to adopt standards and protocols to lessen exposure risks and submit internal exposure analyses to the Health Department.
The data on positive cases and deaths of health care workers doesn’t have to be posted on the Health Department website, either.
Instead, the Health Department must issue a report “no later than 12 months after the end of both the state of emergency and public health emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The revisions effectively gutted a bill designed with public transparency in mind so the public could understand COVID’s impact on the frontline workers that they and political leaders have praised through 11 months of the pandemic as essential heroes.
Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, the state’s largest for nurses and health care workers, said she was happy the bill was signed but not the substance of it.
“It’s people’s lives we’re talking about here. We’re talking about health care workers who are sacrificing every day and are getting COVID, and employers don’t want to report that data,” she said.
She added: “It shouldn’t be that difficult and, it seems to me, intuitive to collect this data. But the hospitals tried so hard. They’ve done so much work to hide this data.”